There’s a lot that goes into making a good movie. You need a solid script, a director with a unique vision and, perhaps most importantly, a great cast that can all align with that vision. But sadly, that doesn’t always happen.
In the case of movie franchises, having all the right elements in place is incredibly important. After all, an excellent movie franchise is only as good as its weakest link. And for some of our favorite franchises, members of the cast are that weakest link. They fail to sell the vision, the story, and the truth of their characters. o much so that the films they star in simply don’t resonate with tried and true fans. It’s bad news all around, especially when you’re dealing with franchises that carry large fan bases like Marvel and DC - those fans aren't messing around when it comes to their favorite characters.
Unfortunately for all of us avid movie-goers, we don’t always get the performances we need or want to see, and our favorite franchises can be completely ruined by that fact.
Here are 15 Terrible Performances That Ruined Movie Franchises.
15 Jessica Alba - Fantastic Four
Jessica Alba’s limited acting range made Fantastic Four a difficult pill of a movie to swallow. Her character Sue Storm is meant to be something of a scientific genius and a foundation for the Fantastic Four, but Alba just doesn't sell it. While the actress does more than her part in the film, her skills as an actress just do not jive. She's incapable of portraying a layered and complex character which is essential when inhabiting a character like Sue Storm.
Terrible acting aside, it's also unfortunate that Alba’s Sue Storm is kind of relegated to the sidelines, with her main point of importance being that she's one-third of a love triangle that isn't even fully fleshed out rather than a superhero in her own right.
14 Bernard Hill - Lord of the Rings
The Lord of the Rings trilogy is one of the finest film franchises of our time. It creates a wondrous and immersive universe in which audiences have the opportunity to lose themselves completely. It's really too bad, then, that Bernard Hill completely takes us out of the story in his role as King Theoden.
Solemn and serious, King Theoden required an actor who could really sink his teeth into the role with a sense of nuance and understanding, but Hill seemed to go for a greatness too far above an audience’s liking. His scenes veer into the cheesy side, of things with the actor talking it up for the camera at every opportunity. Though Hill goes for inspiration and intensity, the emotion and the performance fall completely flat. It's a shame really as the Lord of the Rings trilogy truly is a classic and Hill's performance will be gawked at for the rest of eternity.
13 Edward Norton - The Incredible Hulk
Remember when Edward Norton took on the titular role in The Incredible Hulk? Neither do we since Mark Ruffalo is now doing such a wonderful job of bringing the big green guy to life in The Avengers.
One could argue that The Incredible Hulk is one of the most forgettable movies in Marvel’s roster, and you may be able to thank Norton and his fellow castmates for that. The film is mostly remembered now for its phoned-in performances and the alleged creative differences among those on set. Norton, in particular, had trouble with Bruce Banner's light and fun disposition.
According to reports, Norton preferred to highlight the darker side of the character but Marvel wouldn’t give his version of the Hulk the green light. All we can say is thank goodness Ruffalo stepped into the role.
12 Lee Pace - Guardians of the Galaxy
There’s no question that Guardians of the Galaxy made for some great performances. The film and cast received wide praise and it grossed a pretty sweet number at the box office. It's safe to say Guardians of the Galaxy was a breakout hit. But there was one tiny problem with the film: Lee Pace.
In comparison to his castmates, Pace phoned in much of his performance, giving way to tantrum-like machinations and making Ronan the Accuser look as tough as a spoiled little kid. Movie-goers and critics alike found Pace’s performance a bit cringe-worthy and shallow. Unfortunately for Mr. Pace, audiences no longer tolerate performances that verge on the melodramatic. Luckily Ronan the Accuser was swiftly disposed of and likely won't be seen again.
11 Jennifer Lawrence - X-Men: Days of Future Past
It may seem shocking to see Jennifer Lawrence on screen as she’s usually so great on screen - she even has an Oscar and a Golden Globe! But we have to. Her appearance in X-Men: Days of Future Past was one of the weakest casting decisions we’ve seen in a long time. Not only does her performance seem completely unbelievable, her chemistry with James McAvoy just falls flat on all fronts. Due to how unenthused she seems, it may be time for Lawrence to hang up the blue scales.
It’s as uninspiring a performance as you can imagine from one of the biggest stars of her generation and does a huge disservice an character as iconic as Raven "Mystique" Darkholme.
10 Orlando Bloom - Pirates of the Caribbean
Throughout his career, Orlando Bloom has had a hand in a few nifty franchises, like Lord of the Rings (where he played the elf Legolas) and, of course, Pirates of the Caribbean. His run in Lord of the Rings was just fine, but it’s Pirates that we’re a little more concerned with.
Sure, Pirates of the Caribbean is more comedy than anything else, but Bloom’s uninspired performance gives it an extra kick that was probably not what the filmmakers were going for. The way that his character Will Turner goes from the hero of the story to being written out at the end of At World's End really says it all, and when he returned in Dead Men Tell No Tales it was with more of a whimper than a bang.
9 Natalie Portman - Thor: The Dark World
Here’s another actress we hate to add to this list. Natalie Portman is typically great in just about everything... except, of course, her turn in Thor. Maybe it was because she’s Natalie Portman or maybe it was because this was a casting mistake, but she just wasn’t believable as Jane Foster. Sometimes for actors of Portman’s status, it can be hard for audiences to see them as anything other than who they are: a famous face and name - that may have been the problem here. Never mind the fact that Marvel and Portman were at odds over the firing of Patty Jenkins, which maybe lent itself to her weak performance.
Jane Foster was dismissively written out with a throwaway line in Thor: Ragnarok, so it seems like Portman is done with the franchise for good.
8 Mickey Rourke - Iron Man 2
Has Mickey Rourke actually been good in any film other than The Wrestler? We’re not sure, but one thing we are sure of is that his bit in Iron Man 2 was unfortunate. Rourke imbues his Ivan Vanko, AKA Whiplash, with a slightly foreign accent and a whole lot of muscle. But that’s all there is to the performance, unfortunately.
In a world like the MCU, villains need to be multi-dimensional in order to really and truly sell them to the audience. Rourke didn’t give us that and it made Iron Man 2 a weak and unfulfilling film. The film and the character had the potential to be great, if only they’d hired someone else to fill the role.
7 January Jones - X-Men: First Class
Aside from her role as Betty Draper in Mad Men, can you think of a single performance where January Jones has been believable? In X-Men: First Class, Jones couldn’t even manage to give Emma Frost some true-to-life qualities. There was nothing interesting or vaguely intriguing about the famous ice queen.
Although the comics have an elaborate backstory to the character, the film and Jones, it seems, had very little interest in exploring Emma Frost's complexities further. It's sad, really, when you consider that Emma Frost is a character as complex and multi-layered as they come.
As is becoming a pattern on this list, Frost was written out of the franchise with Days of Future Past and has yet to be seen again.
6 Arnold Schwarzenegger - Batman & Robin
Arnold Schwarzenegger isn’t normally regarded for his great acting skill, but he has been wildly entertaining for the duration of his career. It pains us a little to add him to this list for his performance as Mr. Freeze in Batman & Robin. Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze errs on the remarkably cartoonish side of the spectrum and it takes the audience out of the story completely.
Part of what adds to this awful performance is that Mr. Freeze’s dastardly deeds throughout the film are met with outlandish effects. In the comics, Mr. Freeze has a sense of purpose and an air of creepiness that make him a true villain. But Schwarzenegger’s character is aided more by the plot than by his own sense of evil.
All in all, there’s nothing particularly scary or villainous about this Mr. Freeze, and we’ll have to chalk that up to the actor in this case.
5 Katie Holmes - Batman Begins
Katie Holmes is not typically a name we associate with franchises. We think of her as Joey Potter, as the former wife of Tom Cruise, as a dedicated mom, and as someone who’s now making a comeback after years spent in seeming oblivion. But way before any of that drama happened, Holmes appeared as Bruce Wayne's love interest Rachel Dawes in Batman Begins. Overall, the film received rave reviews but it was Holmes’ performance that took it downhill.
Emotionless and wooden, Holmes played Rachel as any other cookie cutter love interest, and boy, did audiences catch on to her lack on enthusiasm. Thankfully, the role went to Maggie Gyllenhaal in the next movie, which offered minor improvements over Holmes’ performance.
4 Jared Leto - Suicide Squad
Jared Leto may be an Oscar winner now, but that doesn’t mean he can’t turn in a terrible performance here and there. Such was the case with his version of The Joker in Suicide Squad.
In all honesty, Leto was laughably over the top in this role. His facial expressions were all over the place and he gave this character such a slimy, weaselly aura that you could hardly stand to look at him. Look, we get it. The Joker is meant to be a weaselly slime-ball, but Leto took it a step too far for us. The Joker we all know and love is a complicated dude, but the Joker we see in Suicide Squad is as hollow as they come.
3 Jennifer Garner - Daredevil
Jennifer Garner typically plays the mom these days, which is not too far a stretch from her real-life role as mom to two daughters. But once upon a time, Garner was a Golden Globe-winning secret agent on Alias. In between seasons on the spy show, Garner tried her hand at something a little more exotic: Elektra in Daredevil. And while she certainly gave the performance her all, it just wasn’t her schtick.
Despite her action chops, Garner has such a sweet-natured air about her that she has a hard time fully embodying Elektra. Instead of projecting darkness and danger, Garner inhabits Elektra in the same way she does all her characters: with a whole lot of sugar and not enough spice.
2 Jesse Eisenberg - Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice
Alright, time to get real. Batman v Superman wasn’t exactly a masterpiece but the one thing it did have going for it was the performances. Henry Cavill is great as Superman, Ben Affleck gives his best as Batman, Amy Acker is always reliable, and who could forget Gal Gadot's already iconic debut as Wonder Woman? But the one performance that really tanked the whole operation was Jesse Eisenberg as Lex Luthor.
Eisenberg’s Lex Luthor is basically the Mark Zuckerberg of the DCEU: he’s all technology and no guts. It’s doubtful that anyone in the audience, or in the film for that matter, cowered in fear because of this performance. It’s altogether uninspired and unrelatable, but if the Justice League post-credit scene was any indication, the DCEU seems to be sticking with him.
1 James Franco - Spider-Man
Let's be honest: not a lot of people are hugely fond of James Franco. Some dislike his politics, others can't stand his sense of artistry. Whatever the case, he's not one of those universally loved actors who garners accolade after accolade. In other words, he has to earn it. And unfortunately, that one awful performance he gave in Spider-Man really didn't do him any favors among die-hard fans.
Perhaps it was so bad because he seemed so out of his element. After all, Franco used to be known for playing comical misfits, stoners, and other losers. It's only in recent years that he's ventured into high art and drama. So, when he took on Harry Osborn in the Spider-Man films in the early 2000s, he seemed wildly out of place. Maybe he was just finding his footing as an actor, or maybe he was just that bad. Either way, he's made our list!
What's your least favorite movie franchise performance? Let us know in the comments!
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